Lighthouses and rocky shores, boating, and lobsters make up pretty much all that out-of-town folks know about the Pine Tree State. See, even that. You probably didn’t know the state has the nickname of Pine Tree State for its lush white pine forests. If you’re headed to the state, though, chances are that the biggest attraction is the red-hot crustacean not a bunch of trees. So, you might be wondering, when to visit for the best Maine lobsters.
Let’s take a look at this historic industry in the gorgeous state on the east coast.
When Is Lobster Season In Different States?
Lobsters aren’t just found in Maine. In fact, they’re frequently fished for in Florida and California, as well. Lobster season varies from location to location because of climate, water temperatures, and other factors.
- Maine lobster season: Year-round, though primarily between June and December
- Florida lobster season: From August to March
- California lobster season: From September to March
When is Lobster Season in Maine?
According to locals, lobster season in Maine lasts your entire life. But, they will tell you that better times exist for finding the tasty crustacean than others.
Lobster fishing occurs year-round, but the dips in cold weather months impact availability and jack up prices. Summer months generally draw more visitors to the otherwise chilly state, as well, so more lobster seekers drive up demand and therefore costs.
If you want a good, high-quality lobster for a decent price, you’ll want to consider several factors and choose your vacation to the state wisely.
One consideration is that cooler water produces better-quality lobster meat. The crustaceans offer more meat during these months. The meat has a better texture and a brinier taste. Unfortunately, though, lobsters are less frequently caught in cold weather because they’re keeping themselves warm before molting come summertime.
At the beginning of July, lobsters start molting and move closer to shore. This means they’re easier to catch then. But these soft-shell lobsters have less meat on them, and the flavor isn’t as robust or sweet.
So, really, it comes down to what’s most important to you: flavor and size or cost?
Why is Lobster Season in Maine so Important?
Thanks to the amazing flavor of lobster, folks all over the world want to eat this meaty crustacean. So, lobster fishing is a major industry in Maine, which supplies 80% of the world’s lobsters. As you can guess, this hugely impacts livelihoods, tourism, and much more in the state.
Lobster season becomes incredibly important because of this. The warmer months produce more lobsters to catch as the crustaceans live closer to shore. This means lobster prices drop anywhere from $1 to $3 per pound. The timing of lobster season varies, though, with tourism playing a huge role in prices.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Buy Lobster?
While lobsters are technically caught and available all year-round in Maine, some seasons are better than others for buying.
January to March: Highest Prices
Because of the cold weather, Maine lobsters are slow-moving and largely inactive. This means they are harder to catch and numbers are down between January and March. Cold-water-caught lobsters are the most flavorful, as well, so this adds another layer of cost.
While the flavor might be worth it for some, the price usually means folks can’t justify buying Maine lobsters between January and March.
April to June: Lobster Prices Peak
Beginning in early spring each year, lobster prices peak for a time. Eventually, as May, then June, come in, prices will gradually drop and become more affordable again. May tends to be one of the best months to buy lobster, as the April peak has passed and the summer rush has yet to hit.
Cold weather months also tend to produce the best-tasting lobsters, as well. So, if you can afford it, enjoy lobster then.
July to September: Second Worst Time to Buy
The worst time to buy Maine lobster is between July and September, as these are the peak demand months for visitors to Maine. The warmest months also produce the least flavorful lobsters all year.
October to December: Cheapest Lobster Prices
As the summer dies out and autumn kicks in, prices drop as summer demand diminishes. The lobsters tend toward peak quality, too, despite the drop-offs in costs. This is the best time to buy hard-shell lobster. That is, until the holidays approach.
Soft Shell Or Hard Shell? What Is The Better Choice?
If possible, always choose hard-shell lobster. The lobsters are meatier and more flavorful. Soft-shell lobsters tend to have a messier, waterier texture and less meat because, during molting, lobsters lose body weight.
Hard-shell lobsters have firm, dense meat with a sweet flavor and 30% more meat than soft-shell.
About Maine Lobster
Maine lobsters have long bodies and ten legs. These legs include two large claws and eight smaller legs they use for walking along the ocean floor. Their claws make up the majority of their body weight.
Maine lobsters come in reddish-brown, mossy green, or blackish colors. They may have spots or come in rare color forms like calico, blue, orange, or yellow. Lobsters only turn that famous bright red after being cooked.
Maine Lobster Types
Both hard-shell and soft-shell lobsters live off the Maine coast. Molting, that is shedding of the older, smaller exoskeletons, results in soft-shell lobsters. Over time, the shells harden and the lobsters “fill in” for larger specimens.
You’ll catch American lobsters off the coast of Maine. These may also be called Maine lobster, New England lobster, Atlantic lobster, or Norther lobster. On rare occasions, blue lobsters (or European lobsters) have been caught in Maine.
Maine Lobster Trapping
The basic principles for lobster trapping have remained unchanged for a long time. Some boats have advancements but most still use the traditional traps. Lobsters get trapped in the baited, wire traps left beneath the water, then lobster catchers pull these in from the ocean floor. Lobster claws are immediately banded to prevent pinching injuries. Then, the lobsters are checked for size, weight, and other requirements before hauling them off to restaurants and vendors.
Lobster catchers must obey certain guidelines around fishing and trapping lobsters. These help to maintain a sustainable lobstering environment in Maine and other regions.
Some of the requirements include:
- Lobsters must be at least 3.25 inches long and weigh at least 1 pound.
- Female lobsters caught with eggs must have tails notched and be returned to the ocean.
When To Get The Best Price For Lobster?
While summer may be the peak lobster season in most folks’ minds, the best prices for Maine lobsters will be found in autumn. The vacationers have gone and demands have lowered by then, so prices begin to drop in early September. Avoid holidays, though, as prices spike again during these times.
FAQs About Maine Lobster
Why are Maine Lobsters so Pricey?
Daily catch determines the cost of lobsters in Maine. The crustaceans are caught with traditional traps, meaning more human involvement is required than in some other fishing industry. Whatever they catch is what is available and therefore prices fluctuate. Lobster catchers also have to review every single lobster to ensure it meets legal market standards before hauling them in.
Is Maine Lobster a Healthy Food Choice?
Lobster meat is loaded with protein and low in fat. While you probably don’t want to eat it every day because of dressings (butter or mayo), on their own, lobsters are a very healthy food choice.
What’s the Best Way to Cook Maine Lobster?
The tenderest Maine lobster meat comes from boiled lobsters. Many folks steam them instead, though.
What Should I Serve with Maine Lobster?
Rice, veggies, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, corn on the cob, and chips often frequent Maine lobster spreads. For many folks, these crustaceans feel exotic, but for locals, they’re as homey as barbecue is in the South.
Is Summertime Maine Lobster The Best?
Most folks think of lobster as a summer feast. This may be because of the highest lobster landings occurring during the warmest season of the year. It may also be because most folks tend to vacation to Maine in this warm season for the best weather.
Additionally, lobsters molt in summertime and are easier to catch. However, soft-shell lobsters have less meat and are more difficult to transport.
Is Maine Important to the Lobster Industry?
Since the late 1800s, Maine has remained one of the most pioneering lobstering industries in the world. The aquaculture of the state became established then and has remained since, serving to protect marine life and sea vegetables as much as possible while providing huge amounts of the sea “bugs” known as lobsters.
When Can You Get Fresh Maine Lobster?
Because lobster season never actually ends in Maine, you can get fresh lobster year-round. Different seasons have different demands, though, with summer the highest. If you’re visiting the state, you’re pretty much guaranteed fresh lobster anywhere coastal.
Why Should You Try Maine Lobster?
While many folks will attest to lobster from anywhere in the world, Maine lobster is considered the best in the United States. Buying locally is always the best, as this supports local fishers. Eating locally at restaurants also helps to support the industry through direct income for local fishermen and restaurant owners. The local catch is also the highest quality, though it can be shipped fresh and arrive quickly enough for that quality to remain.
Can You Eat Lobster Off-Season?
Yes, even when lobster season is off-peak, these tasty crustaceans are still available for eating. Live hard-shell lobsters are available continuously, while many are stores for later in the year, like New Year’s and Christmas when many folks feast on the underwater creatures. From January to March, lobsters may still be found, but the animals are less active and therefore harder to catch. This also means they will be more expensive for sale or in restaurants.
Should I Visit Maine for Lobster?
Many folks travel to Maine just for the lobster. But if you come, you don’t have to spend all your time finding the perfect crustacean dish. Maine is home to many beautiful lighthouses along gorgeous shorelines. Spectacular beaches, stunning inns, gorgeous lakes, and much more welcome visitors to the state as well.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Mila Vega/Shutterstock.com
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